The Orlando Magic come off their come-from-behind win Monday with a chance to sweep the Philadelphia 76ers on the road. Can they build on their momentum?
Orlando Magic (20-31) at Philadelphia 76ers (32-17)
Time/TV: 7 p.m./Bally Sports Florida
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Line: 76ers by 9.5
Tickets: $16-$1,117 on StubHub
Season Series: 76ers 107, Magic 99 in Orlando on Nov. 25; 76ers 133, Magic 103 in Orlando on Nov. 27; Magic 119, 76ers 109 in Philadelphia on Jan. 30; Tonight in Philadelphia
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So . . . who saw that coming? Who saw the Orlando Magic erasing a 21-point deficit and winning on the road against the Philadelphia 76ers? Who saw this team that looked so dead finding the spark and energy to come back and win?
It is certainly a sign of the Magic’s talent and ability. They can indeed beat anybody. And when they lock in and play defense at their highest level, they become a very deadly team. It was pretty incredible and exciting to watch.
Of course, the trick for this young team has been to fight for consistency. This is the big theme of the second half of the season and probably even beyond that with how young this team is. The team has to be able to carry its strong play over game to game. Getting the same opponent — especially one as good as the 76ers — will make it even more of a challenge.
3 Keys To Watch
The thing about pace
The Orlando Magic were a completely different team in January. The slow plodding team that existed before Markelle Fultz returned from injury and got up to speed transformed into a team that could get up the floor quickly and look to score fast. They became a better 3-point shooting team and moved the ball effectively.
Health does wonderful things. And the way the team picked up its pace and got out in transition — importantly using its defense to generate some offense — were keys in the 21-point comeback. The Magic are at their best in the open floor and using their length and skill while the defense is in retreat.
In January, the Magic played at a pace of 100.0 possessions per 48 minutes. That is quite the increase from 99.4 possessions per 48 minutes for the entire season. As is the 15.2 fast-break points per game in January, up from 12.8 for the season.
The Magic are a team that can push the pace and get easy baskets. The more it does this, the better the team will play on both ends.
The turnover factor
Turnovers have remained a big point of emphasis for the Orlando Magic. The loss to the Miami Heat only highlighted an overall weakness in the team this season.
Orlando still ranks 27th in the league in turnover rate at 15.2 percent. In January, that number dropped to 13.9 percent (16th in the league for the month of January). The Magic can win even when they do turn the ball over (their turnover rate in wins is somehow worse at 15.4 percent). But it certainly makes things harder. That is not a way to win consistently.
January then was a step in the right direction. As was Monday’s win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Orlando had only 10 turnovers in that game. And the Magic’s ability to protect the ball was a big part of the team’s comeback win.
Appreciation for Gary Harris
It has come to my attention that some people think the Orlando Magic will trade Gary Harris. That is probably coming from teams hopeful to acquire him and trying to convince the Magic to sell on him. Silly rabbits…
It has also come to my attention (mostly because I did not even realize this) that nobody is talking about how interesting Harris’ season has become. Because Gary Harris is having a ridiculously good season.
Harris enters Wednesday’s game with 9.1 points per game. That is not a crazy number, especially for a starter. But Harris is doing that on shooting splits of 50.7/46.6/85.7. Harris is quietly working on a 50/40/90 season. That is a pretty incredible thing. He is just doing it on pretty low volume — just 6.4 field goal attempts per game and 3.8 3-point attempts per game.
There is definitely some consideration that Orlando should find a way to get Harris more involved. In wins, Harris averages 10.2 points per game with shooting splits of 55.9/55.6/75.0. He takes 6.6 field goal attempts per game in wins. And he does this with good defense on top of it.
Harris is a pretty important player. And if he is getting the ball and getting shots, that usually means the team is working well.
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